Environment ‘needs better protection’: Malaysia environmentalists

Environmentalists have claimed that logging was behind the massive landslides and floods that hit the country.


Log jam: Logs scattered after heavy rains caused rivers to overflow its banks, taking them with it. — Pic by Jabatan Perhutanan Negeri Pahang facebook

January 4, 2022

PETALING JAYA: Environmentalists are calling for amendments to existing forestry laws, claiming that logging was behind the massive landslides and floods that hit the country last month.

Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam (Peka) Malaysia president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said the government should amend or improve the National Forestry Act 1984 (Act 313) immediately to protect the rakyat against “environmental criminals”.

“The Act needs the latest updates and standardisation to give the people fair protection by safekeeping the country’s natural resources as well as to increase fines and jail time for wrongdoers,” she said.

Shariffa also urged that unethical logging and mining should be stopped as soon as possible as it would have devastating consequences if not curbed.

“Cancel all mining permits that are currently underway and similar activities immediately.

“The risk of destruction in a natural disaster is high even with preparations to rehabilitate the area to its natural state,” she added yesterday.

There has been public discontent over images of muddy rivers as well as logjams in states like Pahang, allegedly due to deforestation, with satellite images of supposed land clearing also shared.

On Dec 30 last year, the Pahang Forestry Department denied there was logging, whether legal or illegal, in the Lentang Forest Reserve and state land as well as other land near Jalan Bentong-Karak and the Sri Telemong bridge in Bentong, following allegations that logging was to blame.

To meet worsening effects of climate change, Shariffa said drainage must be improved, and for fail-proof flood mitigation infrastructure to be built.

The environmental group also said it was imperative to have mandatory education on the importance of the natural environment in institutions of all levels.

Malaysian Nature Society president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail said heavy rain was only one factor that contributed to floods.

“The impact depends on the condition of the area and type of soil and (amount of) rainfall.

“Heavy rain may cause more damage. Without trees, rainwater may go down the slope faster with muddy water,” he said.

Besides causing natural disasters such as soil erosion, flash floods and mud floods, tree cutting, he said, also contributed to the loss of biodiversity and habitat.

On the presence of logs in some flood stricken areas, Prof Ahmad said the source of the timber must be investigated and verified.

“Based on public observation during and after the flood event, we need to have further investigation and share with the public why we have logs washed away in the river and floating to the houses as shown over social media,” he added

Youth environmental activist Aidil Iman Aidid, 22, said the public can play important roles in environment preservation by monitoring illegal logging and deforestation.

“The public can report these crimes to forestry departments, but it’s also vital to remain vigilant and vocal against unsustainable legal projects,” he said.

Aidil also called for authorities to be accountable as the requirements are the foundation of any environmental governance.

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